Sunday, July 30, 2006

Sectarian Differences In Lebanon Being Transcended By Crisis

The Lebanese people -- suffering hundreds of civilian deaths from Israeli attacks -- are not reacting to the pressure in the way that was expected by the architects of the air war.

Lebanese citizens, including the Maronite Christians and Sunnis, instead of condemning Hezbollah for causing the pain that they are enduring, are increasingly supporting the Shiite political-military force that drove the Israelis out of their country in 2000.

Lebanon's politics are often oversimplistically broken down by its religious sects. They do create the outlines of public opinion, and the leaders themselves sometimes command blind loyalty. But within each grouping, there is still a great deal of diversity that transcends religious loyalties....

Followers of Christian leader Michel Aoun have been some of the most active in providing aid to displaced Shiite Muslims, coordinating with Hezbollah's own relief efforts. Across the country, nonsectarian grass-roots groups have mobilized to provide help in shows of national unity.

In cities such as Sidon, Sunni clerics have urged a jihad, or holy war, that goes beyond Hezbollah in confronting Israel, and recoil at what they see as the overly close ties of the community's leadership to the United States. "Fighting is the natural state of relations with the Zionist enemy until it is wiped out," declares a banner in a Sunni neighborhood in Sidon. There, one of the most radical of the Sunni groups, often at odds with Hezbollah, has deployed 500 activists to help resettle 8,000 displaced Shiites.

What many Americans (including U.S. government officials) do not know is that Hezbollah less like a Hamas-type Islamic fundamentalist group, but is closer to a nationalist group with goals similar to nationalist groups everywhere.

There are even Christian members of Hezbollah. I bet President Bush doesn't know that.

America's Muslim "allies" -- the Sunni states Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia --are becoming more active with a novel pan-Muslim approach.

The United States' Arab allies -- Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt -- initially blamed Hezbollah for the violence, calling its seizure of the soldiers miscalculated adventures. But a high civilian death toll, widespread destruction in Lebanon and strong popular support for Hezbollah have forced a shift in their stance....

Saudi Arabia dispatched its top diplomats to Washington to press for a cease-fire, and when that failed, issued a strongly worded statement warning of the possibility of a wider regional conflict if Israel refused to exchange Arab land for peace and relations with Arab states.

On Tuesday, the Saudi king pledged $1.5 billion to support Lebanon's economy and fund rebuilding efforts.

Jordan sent a field hospital and medical supplies to Beirut this week, and its monarch, King Abdullah, has said he would "employ all of Jordan's capabilities to reach a cease-fire" and reduce the suffering caused by the "continued Israeli aggression.

Hezbollah, emerging as the new champion of the Palestinians, has managed, for the most part, to close sectarian ranks and win the support of Sunni majorities in most Arab countries.

An energized pan-Muslim movement would be an ominous development for the United States. The only loyalty any of these countries have toward the U.S. comes from the largesse that we bestow upon Egypt and Jordan, and the business relationship with the Saudis.

The domestic political considerations of these regimes (keeping the "Arab street" pacified) will always take precedence if push comes to shove.

And with events in the region deteriorating daily, push is quickly coming to shove.

The coming week will be crucial to defusing the crisis, and with Israel reportedly needing another "two weeks" of American political cover, a timely diplomatic solution is not looking likely.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It really will be interesting to see what happens in the next two weeks... I've been reading the news (on the blogs) with increased horror and wondering if I should buy some water purification tablets -- just in case WWIII breaks out...

-- at the same time, I'm shaking my head at the spin given the news in our local newspapers (very pro-Israel) and wondering how can a normal person (who doesn't read blogs) have a hope of not being totally manipulated and misinformed...

-- finally, just read

and it seems for the neocons -- it's all good -- the more death and destruction the better... instead of a barfight limited to two people they want to burn the neighbourhood to the ground -- as long, of course, as it isn't their neighbourhood...

My only wish is that Cheney, Bush, and all the neocons actually had to serve in a real war for a couple of years before they got their curent work...


7/30/2006 1:39 PM  
Blogger Effwit said...


If I were you, I would not bother with the water purification precautions. If it is WWIII, it won't be the ICBM's flying like everyone feared during the Cold War. The only danger you would likely face is much more expensive fuel prices. And maybe a massive hyper-inflation event if the world economy doesn't view the "clash of civilations" as calmly as the neo-cons who desire the conflagration do.

One caveat would be a U.S. attack on Canada. Then maybe you shouldn't have listened to me and would have been better off getting those water purification tabs after all.

Thanks for the link to the Washington Monthly article. Josh Marshall was certainly prescient in that piece. He really nails the neo-con attitude towards people who actually know international relations.

Like any group of permanent Washington revolutionaries fueled by visions of a righteous cause, the neocons long ago decided that criticism from the establishment isn't a reason for self-doubt but the surest sign that they're on the right track. But their confidence also comes from the curious fact that much of what could go awry with their plan will also serve to advance it. A full-scale confrontation between the United States and political Islam, they believe, is inevitable, so why not have it now, on our terms, rather than later, on theirs? Actually, there are plenty of good reasons not to purposely provoke a series of crises in the Middle East. But that's what the hawks are setting in motion, partly on the theory that the worse things get, the more their approach becomes the only plausible solution.

He does a good job laying out the precise pyramid of wrongful assumptions that the neo-cons have constructed with their ideas of a radically transformed Middle East:

The hawks' grand plan differs depending on whom you speak to, but the basic outline runs like this: The United States establishes a reasonably democratic, pro-Western government in Iraq--assume it falls somewhere between Turkey and Jordan on the spectrum of democracy and the rule of law. Not perfect, representative democracy, certainly, but a system infinitely preferable to Saddam's. The example of a democratic Iraq will radically change the political dynamics of the Middle East. When Palestinians see average Iraqis beginning to enjoy real freedom and economic opportunity, they'll want the same themselves. With that happy prospect on one hand and implacable United States will on the other, they'll demand that the Palestinian Authority reform politically and negotiate with Israel. That in turn will lead to a real peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians. A democratic Iraq will also hasten the fall of the fundamentalist Shi'a mullahs in Iran, whose citizens are gradually adopting anti-fanatic, pro-Western sympathies. A democratized Iran would create a string of democratic, pro-Western governments (Turkey, Iraq, and Iran) stretching across the historical heartland of Islam. Without a hostile Iraq towering over it, Jordan's pro-Western Hashemite monarchy would likely come into full bloom. Syria would be no more than a pale reminder of the bad old days. (If they made trouble, a U.S. invasion would take care of them, too.) And to the tiny Gulf emirates making hesitant steps toward democratization, the corrupt regimes of Saudi Arabia and Egypt would no longer look like examples of stability and strength in a benighted region, but holdouts against the democratic tide. Once the dust settles, we could decide whether to ignore them as harmless throwbacks to the bad old days or deal with them, too. We'd be in a much stronger position to do so since we'd no longer require their friendship to help us manage ugly regimes in Iraq, Iran, and Syria.

Needless to say, reality has intervened somewhat in the execution of their grandiose plan.

Thanks again for the link.

7/30/2006 2:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, I thought it was an excellent article too... and the line

the neocons long ago decided that criticism from the establishment isn't a reason for self-doubt but the surest sign that they're on the right track.

gave me pause -- yikes! I thought, I've been guilty of that myself... could it be that I have any similarities to the dreaded neocons? :-) Vowing to be more moderate in my behavior, I go on...

-- the U.S. attack Canada? Why would they attack something they already pretty much own? Stephen Harper would basically rubber stamp anything that Bush wants...


7/30/2006 2:49 PM  
Blogger Meatball One said...

Marshall's ...much of what could go awry with their plan will also serve to advance it. is a favourite.

When things go wrong you just inflate, per way of conflation (ie sponsoring interior ministry death squads), the wrong into a convenient launch pad to prove your initial hypothesis and conflagrate the disaster into a rationale for your next target. C & C.

Not a bad strategy if you can contain the inferno from leaving the region and coming home to haunt your assets and power base. Thank God for oceans. Fear but the winds. Pray save Canada.

PS Good to see Effwit pontificating at greater's about time.

7/30/2006 3:00 PM  
Blogger Effwit said...


No moderation necessary.

Criticism from the establishment is often a badge of honor. And indeed a sign that one may be on the right track.

Except (and this is a big except) when one is (like the neo-cons) openly advocating policies that are both kooky and genuinely harmful to living things, world peace, etc.

Kooky alone is fine. Even occasionally splendidly evolutionary. ;-)

The crack about a U.S. attack upon Canada was merely an inside joke for my friends at the Defence Research Establishment-Ottawa.

7/30/2006 3:05 PM  
Blogger Effwit said...


Yeah, your Steady State Chaos theory.

I have tweaked the wording a bit.

"Entropy can be harnessed for national security purposes".

Patent pending.

7/30/2006 3:10 PM  
Blogger Meatball One said...

Steady state chaos...did I say that? The stuff I say. Alex says order out of chaos - but he's a bit ahead of reality at times. Your phrasing sounds like it comes from someone that actually can hold down a gvt salary in the >86 range.

We others still reminisce about the glory days of high school and never get our spelling right as we apply for temp jobs at Manpower.

7/30/2006 3:55 PM  
Blogger Effwit said...


Steady state chaos...did I say that?

Most recently in your almost clairvoyant One Final Solution To Go, Please.

According to the literature, the concept is yours.

7/30/2006 4:32 PM  
Blogger Meatball One said...

Ah...I was just pulling your one good leg.

Hey, I was gonna post a decent Marshall blog entry at SMC but there were some pandering sticklers in it that bugged me enogh to step back from giving it SMC notoriety. I was just over at the rabid Xymph shack and saw he bit into pandering parts of the Marshall entry that bugged me. Sometimes I hate agreeing with such unsexy fellas with such a whacko subset of hang-arounds.

But Syria...hey, u seem to be spot on in your call and I'm beginning to seriously wonder if my call of an Iran hit has gone awry for some reason. Did you get around to taking me up on the bet?

7/31/2006 9:30 AM  
Blogger Effwit said...


I suspected that you were being facetious.

I ruled out false modesty from the get go.

I just saw the rabid piece you referenced. Jeez, young Andy needs to get a grip. Boycott all Jewish owned businesses? He obviously isn't familiar with the principle that you become what you hate.

Besides, any excesses (even by the IDF) carry within them the seed of their protagonists' downfall.

Iran is still on the agenda, but Syria is first in line. And no, I failed to take you up on the bet. I have had all my expendable funds tied up on a President Bush homosexual sex scandal play.

7/31/2006 9:58 AM  
Blogger Meatball One said...

LMAO. Why didn't you let me in on a piece of that action. I'd have bet on that one even if losing was guaranteed.

7/31/2006 10:36 AM  
Blogger Effwit said...


For the same reason that one places one's bet on a fixed horse race at the last possible second before the betting windows close.

You don't want to drive down the odds.

7/31/2006 10:50 AM  
Blogger Meatball One said...

lol. i left a 'write a caption for the pic' post at C&L's latest round...though I had him pegged more bipartisan.

7/31/2006 11:10 AM  
Blogger Effwit said...


Quite descriptive account.

Yet with his shoulders that far down, he musta been rogering someone his own bad self.

But you are accurate, he is supposedly bipartisan.

7/31/2006 12:03 PM  

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